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The Divided Heart (1954)
The judgement of Solomon is a difficult one to make.
It shows how superficial my expectations are of a black and white film that I only watched this because I was ill, and it was either this, a cooking show or "Take the High Road" (an awful Scottish Soap.
What I found was a film full of believable characterisations that was not afraid to tackle a very difficult subject, where the true mother of a Yugoslavian boy raised by German foster parents during the Second World War returns to reclaim her child ten years later.
What makes the subject matter so difficult is the way in which the boy comes to be made available for adoption through the attrocities of the war. The two flashbacks are very well done, making you care about both of the women and the love they feel for the child - the subdued Yugoslav mother, speaking through an interpreter, refusing to betray her emotions in public having been scarred by her experiences, (I thought the short scene where she is in the church looking at Mary and baby Jesus was very revealing) and the German woman who has raised the child during his formative years.
The three judges from the American Control Commission are called upon to make the impossible decision, and the judgements that each of them decide, though different, ring true.
I was surprised by the abruptness of the ending, wishing to see what Toni would do in later year, but that is my only criticism of this film.
Vanishing Point (1971)
Not just a film, a life experience
I once drove from Albany to Niagara Falls in a day, on roads that just kept on going, seemingly without end - not something we get a lot of in the UK - and I was changed by the experience of driving in this massive country, knowing that it didn't have to stop there, I could have kept on going.
Watching Vanishing Point I got a similar feeling, driving in isolation, the call of the open road.
Of course, you end up having too much time to think about life and past regrets when you are driving for that long, and that for me is the attraction of this film. Kowalski is driving to escape his past, but no matter how fast he drives his past continues to haunt him - listen to the conversation he has about driving to San Francisco - no-one can drive that distance in that short a time.
By choosing to have no companion for Kowalski, the director avoids useless banter, the engine noise is the dialogue. Of course, a film with just a guy driving down a road would be quite dull, so we are given some interludes of Kowalski meeting other people as real life interrupts his introspection, but in the end he decides his own destiny.
P.S. The car chases are cool too!!
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Having suffered at the hands of Independence Day, I enjoyed this immensely.
This film is the perfect counterfoil to Independence Day's jingoistic banality - and extremely funny.
The first half of the film takes time to set the scene, but once the Martians start doing there stuff I could not stop laughing as civilisation crumbled in so many inventive ways - the highlight for me was the determination of the Martians to squash the boy scouts with the Washington Monument; stupid, cruel, but it made me laugh!
As for the acting, it was not very important, but I did enjoy the General's over the top persona.
Essentially what was done here was taking a look at the films from the 50's, and realising that they were unintentionally funny (Invaders from Mars particulary comes to mind - the acting, the seriousness of the characters - all of it absolutely awful, but done in earnest), Tim Burton took it to it's logical conclusion and made it intentionally funny.
As in all things, some people laugh and others don't, but watching it in the way it was intended, it is a very enjoyable film.
"Do not runaway, we are your friends!"